Waracraft and Utopia

I stumbled on this looking for World of Warcraft mods. I assume the writer was serious.

A similar force is at play in World of Warcraft, and brings me to the first of two related claims: the game is a utopia for a world without signifiers; it is characterized by a minimalist desire. Ignoring the interface overlay for one moment, one notices that the game’s diegetic world (the imaginary narrative space within which game-play transpires) has very few linguistic or symbolic signifiers; this is in sharp contrast to our offline world of brand logos, advertisements, linguistic signs, and so on. To be sure, the game is not free from signification. There exist guild insignias, visual placards for various vender’s buildings, and indeed the entire three-dimensional model of the game is, at root, a form of digital signification. Yet inside the diegetic narrative, World of Warcraft projects a space of pure formal representation, cleansed of unnecessary symbolic or linguistic ornamentation. Brands and logos are gone, as are words and images. This is part of the fantasy of fantasy. “Ornaments cannot be invented,” wrote Adorno on the Viennese modernist Adolf Loos. “In art the more that must be made, sought, invented, the more uncertain it becomes if it can be made or invented. Art that is radically and explicitly something made must ultimately confront its own feasibility.”[2] This is essentially the conundrum of formalism in modernism: reducing art to pure form, and hence cleansing it of all invention or contingency, causes it to remerge in some sort of content-less but pure shape which itself nevertheless pops up anew as “style.” Removing linguistic and symbolic signifiers from the diegetic space of World of Warcraft is an extension of this aesthetic project.

It goes on to tie in Donald Rumsfeld, Pearl Harbor, and Al Qaeda. It’s kind of interesting, and also kind of crazy.

Angie said there was going to be a Ron Paul rally on some server. I bet it’s related.

Yeah, I think they just kept words and numbers out to make localization easier.

Some parent paid for that liberal arts degree.


It comes off crazy, but it is a sort of interesting point. Whatever the reason (and I suspect Tom’s right), it’s a funny quirk. Although I tend to think there are plenty of symbols in the game – the ones he talked about, plus there are signs you can mouseover all over the place, the Horde and Alliance symbols, the various signs that NPC camps have (like those skins with the red X’s by Ogre camps, etc.), and on and on. Plus all the tabards – not just guild tabards, but all the special quest-reward tabards and PvP tabards and whatnot.

Like every semiotics student I’ve ever met. Except for the “interesting” part. Which this is also not.

Aw, Whisperwind isn’t a PvP server. Why are they playing on a server where a freedom widely available to players on other servers is curtailed?

Look, he quotes Adorno! First let’s extract this awesomely incomprehensible intro quote and revel in its glory:

And later on, a prescient Adorno shows that World of Warcraft is in truth mere affirmation of the industrial exploitation of the working class:

The element of repetition in play is the afterimage of unfree labor, just as sports – the dominant extra-aesthetic form of play – is reminiscent of practical activities and continually fulfills the function of habituating people to the demands of praxis, above all by the reactive transformation or physical displeasure into secondary pleasure, without their noticing that the contraband of praxis has slipped into it.

I like that someone takes a stab at treating the hobby as more than just candy for kiddies. Sure, it might be a bit mad, but it’s smart-mad, and that’s ok in my book!

I don’t quite understand the hostility that pops up around here for anything that smacks of the academic. If the guy wants to study semiotics in WoW, more power to him, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t understand it very well, but that’s not really his problem.

In my attempts to avoid work, I decided to work my way through it. Lost his thread a couple of times - I can see individual points, but not quite sure where they worked into the larger idea (But - y’know - I’m not semiotician, so some of the vernacular lost me), especially when we looped back to the conclusion.

That said, at least when he keeps solely on WoW, he’s got his points - but I’m not exactly sure how profound they are. The Nostalgic/Romantic/Utopian streak in fantasy is really plain - and the wallowing in it an implicit rejection of the world-as-is - and WoW is just another further, operative incarnation of that.

Or something.


Apologies for the hostility, my patience has just been worn thin over the years by this kind of stuff (only after reading and studying a fair amount of it myself). I’m all in favor of thinking and talking about games in deeper ways, and you’re right, more power to him. I should just avoid reading that kind of stuff, if for no other reason than to keep from straining my eye-rolling muscles.

It’s hilarious, that’s why. It’s something about the language in this specific branch of academica, economics, physics, and history papers don’t make me burst out laughing, probably because they don’t talk like what I imagine a monocle-wearing revolutionary sounds like. Maybe it’s related to the cultural American hostility to uppityness; I don’t know.

Maybe this is just my ignorance of the field, but I really do not understand how using the phrase “digital significance”, for example, rather than whatever the hell the plain English equivalent is, helps anything.

People in the arena have a lot of screwed up terminology. It’s hard to make up the right words to talk about words, so they push around the different words somebody else made up trying to piece everything together.

It’s actually a very promising field of study, even if I think this (and most other intelligensia) is really really stupid. Academia tends to be full of people wasting their whole lives trying to justify their educational status rather than actually contribute to anybody else’s life.

The promising part is they are trying to meaningfully define how the meaning of written and spoken words differ in the context they are provided and differ from, say flipping someone off… Or the difference between a genuine :), a sarcastic :) and saying I am smiling right now. This is important in developing a real ai, or if you want to be able to speak with your computer using everyday speech (without having to release some kind of updated standard usage dictionary every 6 monthes and recieve constant prompting about what was meant).